Billboards have been popping up around London declaring ‘The Messiah has come’. According to Harry Farley in Christian Today, these have attracted a number of objections, and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) are currently investigating.
Farley reports that “the campaign has prompted outrage from Christians, Muslims and Jews who all have notions of a ‘messiah’ in their beliefs and find the billboards offensive.”
This is odd. Since when did religious advertisements have to conform to a particular interpretation of messianic eschatology? Since when was it the task of the ASA to discern between mythical symbols and promised realities? If the remit of the ASA now extends to determining theological orthodoxy, what hope is there for billboards proclaiming ‘Jesus is Lord’? Don’t Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and Jedi Knights all have notions of a ‘lord’ in their beliefs? Might not adherents of any non-Christian religion find such a declaration offensive?
Even odder is this:
The Advertising Standards Agency confirmed to Christian Today it has received 33 complaints so far about the adverts. A spokesman said people have claimed the post is ‘misleading because they believe it is not consistent with the teachings of the Quran’.
Since when did religious advertisements have to be consistent with the teachings of the Qur’an?
But then we read:
…the advert was being targeted in a coordinated campaign by other Muslim sects.
An email template seen by Christian Today and sent to Ahmadi opponents claimed ‘the billboard incites hatred, it is deeply offensive and hurtful to millions of British citizens’. The email urges other Muslims to write to the ASA, the Metropolitan Police and the Charity Commission asking them to take the billboards down.
This is a time for the ASA to recognise a coordinated campaign of sharia censorship when they see one, and to resist attempts to infringe the fundamental freedom of expression or impinge upon anyone’s freedom of religion; the freedom to proclaim one’s faith in the marketplace and to live in accordance with its precepts. Ahmadiyya Muslims ought to be perfectly free to declare on billboards that the Messiah has come.
Because he has.
Quite why Christians should find this billboard offensive is a mystery; indeed, they should embrace the basic declaration as truth, making the most of every opportunity to preach the true Messiah, because the days are evil (Eph 5:16). Instead of carping about Ahmadi error or Islamic deception; instead of bleating about being hurt or offended, Christians should look to the example of St Paul at the Areopagus (Acts 17:16-34):
“Men of Islam! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found a billboard with this inscription: THE MESSIAH HAS COME. Now what you know as Isa the prophet I am going to proclaim to you..”
This is an opportunity for evangelism – to discuss who the Messiah really is and to examine why the Isa of the Qur’an is not the Jesus of the Bible; why the Isa of violent jihad is not the Jesus of ascetic spirituality (as they are surely about to debate in Blackburn Cathedral). The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe the gospel. In all the oppression, injustice and deprivation of this time, the hope of liberation is before you; the reign of God, the kingdom of the Messiah is coming, and the Messiah said there would be false messiahs (Mt 24:24)…
Of course, if you prefer, you can choose to be offended and gripe to the ASA.
And doubtless much fruit will come of it.